County issues moratorium on solar arrays

Solar energy systems don’t produce air pollutants or carbon dioxide and have minimal effects on the environment, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In an effort to give the county time to create proper procedures and regulations for solar collectors and solar arrays, the Wilkin County Board of Commissioners adopted a moratorium on Tuesday, June 11, which halts construction of the solar-related projects until an ordinance can be drawn up.

“Right now we don’t have anything built into our county ordinance that would regulate them,” the county’s Director of Environmental Services Breanna Koval said.

The Wilkin County Board of Commissioners will appoint a work group to study the county’s existing regulations and policies. They’ll look at sample ordinances from around the state to see what would work best for Wilkin County. An ordinance will be drafted after that, which will be followed by a public hearing for the citizens to provide their input. The comments are then taken into consideration to see if the ordinance needs any revision.

With electric co-ops and individuals looking for more renewable and sustainable forms of energy, all the other counties in Minnesota are going through the same process.

“Solar collectors are the next best thing or the next new thing,” Koval said. “It was on the horizon, it just didn’t get implemented yet. Then all of a sudden we had people coming to us saying, ‘We would like to install these solar collectors, what are the regulations?’ and we didn’t have any. Right now we just need to pause so we can create some regulations to build into our land-use ordinance.”

There were already a couple proposed projects prior to the moratorium. Those will be able to proceed while the others will be paused.

“This essentially halts any further discussions that anyone would bring to the table before we have an ordinance set in place,” Koval said.

The moratorium shall remain in effect until June 11, 2020, unless terminated earlier by the Wilkin County Board of Commissioners.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are two main benefits of solar energy. The first is solar energy systems don’t produce air pollutants or carbon dioxide. The second is solar energy systems on buildings have minimal effects on the environment.

Solar thermal energy systems are used to heat water for use in homes, buildings or swimming pools. It’s also used to heat the interior of homes, greenhouses and other buildings.

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